White Lauds Vendor During Inauguration Speech

Mayor Michael R. White’s Inauguration Speech 1/11/98 at the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church

(Relevant portion regarding The Homeless Grapevine)

"Let us give the Clevelanders of the third millennium greater economic opportunity. Just yesterday, JoAnn and I were out shopping by ourselves, and there was a young man in front of the store that we walked into. This young man was no doubt homeless, he was selling the Homeless Grapevine magazine. I noticed this young man when I went past him. I did not give him any money. I did not buy his magazine. But I noticed that he was standing in front of the store…upright; that he was clear in his articulation; that he was engaging of the people who walked by in a very respectful way. He caught my attention.

We walked into the store, and we walked around and bought a couple of things. And walked outside, and as soon as I got to the door before the vestibule, I still heard this young man engaging people as they walked by, Senator Johnson, talking with them, smiling and doing anything he could not to bother people. But to say to you, ‘I am trying. I know that I don’t work in Downtown Cleveland in a big nice office. I know that I don’t have a job in a factory somewhere. I know that I am homeless. I know I have these economic problems, but through these mannerisms, and through my communication, I want you to know that I am trying to make a way for myself in the best way that I know how.’

I was so struck by that young man, I walked to that young man and gave him a few dollars, and he offered me his paper. And I said, ‘No, I don’t want your paper. Sell it to someone else and make a little bit more money.’ And I started to turn away and turned back to him, and I said, ‘Have you ever worked? Have you worked recently in the last few years?’ He said, ‘No, I really haven’t.’ I said to him, ‘Would you like a job?’ He said, ‘I would like to work. I want to work.’ I said to him, ‘Do you know where City Hall is?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I want you to meet me at City Hall at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. And if you are on time, and if you are in my office at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. And if you want to work half as hard as you are selling these magazines, I have a job for you.’ (clapping).

Ladies and Gentleman, you read and know so much about what I do as the Mayor. You know about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. You know about the hotels and you know about the Save Our Browns Campaign. You know about all these things, and they are good things, and good for our city. But I want you to know that I felt so proud, and by the way Jan, he will be asking for you. (Laughing). I felt so proud, I felt so proud to be able to make a small potential difference in that young man’s life. Because, I must tell you, it is the big things that we do as Mayors, you pay us to do those big things. You pay us to sit in the rooms. You pay us to make the decisions. You pay us to move the city forward. But it is the little things that give me so much personal pleasure.

To be able to bring a new standard of economic opportunity to every man and woman, to every young man and young women in this city who says that I want to work. And I know that through my work, I will have dignity and I can take my family and I can look after my young. Just maybe like Audrey and Robert White in the spring of 1969, sitting in a kitchen table at 9219 Hempton Ave., and Robert says to Audrey, ‘I think Mike is going to be able to go to college.’ The first one in the entire White family to go to be able to go to college. Why? Because they were committed to me, but also for forty years because that man got in his car every single day six days a week and drove to Chase Brass Copper Company. (clapping).

I want, I want, I want that for every family in Cleveland. I don’t care whether you live on Hough or Lorain or Detroit or Superior or in Collinwood. I want that for every family, because I know that if they have that kind of economic where-with-all, if they can gain that kind of dignity, they will take care of 95% of the problems themselves. Let us give them that kind of economic opportunity. (Clapping).

[Later in the Speech:]

In the end, whether you are in the bush in Africa, whether you are on the top floor of Trump Tower in New York, or whether you are standing in front of a store selling the Homeless Grapevine, or whether you are the richest man or woman on earth, all of us are God’s children. All of us have been created by Him to be in this place to do good. So let us bring about a new acceptance and embracing of diversity."

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25